The traditional way of conducting warfare is becoming increasingly impractical and unfeasible in today’s world.

It is not only economically devastating but geographically disastrous, not to mention deadly and inhumane.

In an ideal world, warfare is eradicated and peace reigns supreme.

However, this is not the current reality.

As we approach this future utopia, many conflicts may arise as ideological differences spur the violent usage of weapons.

One of the most futuristic weapons for warfare is chemical weapons, which are particularly daunting because they are often employed in a way that makes them invisible to our senses. Despite this subtlety, they can be overcome if certain preemptive measures are taken.

In this article, we discuss the history of these weapons, first covering the basics, then covering the past usage of them as well as the most dangerous ones currently available.

Finally, we end with our thoughts regarding their potential for future usage.

What is a Chemical Weapon?

A chemical weapon is any toxic substance that can be dispersed in an environment. A chemical weapon does not technically have to be deadly. As long as the substance causes irritation, injury, or some form of incapacitation, it is considered a weapon.

Chemical weapons, which are technically nonliving, have been distinguished from biological weapons, which are living organisms, like Anthrax.

They can be spread as liquids, vapors, gases, or aerosols, and their symptoms can range anywhere from a mere headache or skin irritation to the instant failure of the respiratory or nervous system.

The use of these substances has been overtly prohibited on an international level, and any violation of this mandate carries severe penalties. They are considered a Weapon of Mass Destruction along with the notorious nuclear weapon due to their possibility for harming a large number of people.

History of Chemical Weapons

Fire is technically considered a chemical weapon and has been added to the tips of arrows along with poison for millennia.

Sun Tzu, who lived under the Zhou Dynasty of Ancient China, described the efficacy of fire arrows in his monumental work The Art of War, which has influenced many military empires over the years.

Even Leonardo Da Vinci, a 15th century polymath, has considered the application of chemical substances during wartime, noting the potency of arsenic poisoning.

Death by poison is also a common trope of many early modern literatures. This is featured heavily in the work of Shakespeare, whose heroes often experience tragic, premature demises centered around poison.

The most abominable example of modern usage might be during World War II by Nazi Germany.  They frequently used carbon monoxide and cyanide to exterminate Jews in gas chambers. The application here was on such a mass scale that it revolutionized the nature of war.

The Most Dangerous Chemical Weapons

In this section, we discuss four of the deadliest chemical weapons.

Sarin

Sarin is a gaseous substance that is odorless and colorless and disrupts transfer of information between nerves and organs. It can cause death within a matter of minutes from mere inhalation and was first discovered at the beginning of World War II by Germany.

Tabun

Tabun is another nerve agent that is considered less dangerous than Sarin because it can be counteracted through the use of bleaching powder. It is only deadly at higher doses and was also discovered just prior to World War II.

More recently, it was used in the Iran-Iraq War along with mustard gas and sarin.

Mustard Agents

These chemical weapons are known for their ability to cause blisters in the lungs and on exposed skin. They have a longer history of usage than either Sarin or Tabun and were used throughout World War I by Germany.

Mustard Agents have a distinctive smell and can be carried by bombs, mines, artillery shells, rockets, or aerosols. They are most effective at incapacitating victims and are rarely lethal.

Cyanide

This chemical compound is notorious for its usage in the gas chambers at extermination camps during World War II. It is also popular as a suicide agent, and many famous figures in history have tragically died via this route, most prominent perhaps being Alan Turing.

Our Final Thoughts Regarding Chemical Weapons

Despite their history of usage, chemicals weapons are no longer considered as high of a threat as they were in the past.

More feared than chemicals are nuclear weapons and biological weapons that introduce disease. Both of these weapons are deadlier on a larger scale and have the ability to devastate large areas of the world.

However, chemical weapons are still a fear-inducing possibility.

This is due to the recent proliferation of acts of terror by single individuals in isolated locations like schools and movie theatres. Nowadays, if there is a will, there is a way, and enemies harness whatever they can get their hands on to carry out their evil motives.

The best antidote to this kind of violence is the dispersal of education and love, which, as Jimmy Hendrix once said, can overcome the love of power.

(Don’t make fear of these weapons affect your daily way of living. Here’s How Government Keeps You and the World Safe)

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